Brian Kelly's small-school pedigree led to rebuilding Notre Dame

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

A small-school mentality in the biggest game of his career -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is ready for Monday's National Championship game against Alabama.

In hiring Brian Kelly from Cincinnati the Fighting Irish wanted more than the hottest head coach available, they wanted someone who could completely rebuild their football program in the wake of years of disappointment. In his third season Kelly has revitalized a program, but it's par-for-the-course if you've looked at his history.

Writing for the New York Times, Greg Bishop outlined how Kelly rose through the ranks of Grand Valley State in Division II, to coaching in the BCS National Championship. All while retaining the same basic principles he employed in Allendale, Mich.

"I needed to learn how to be a head coach," Kelly said in a phone interview. "Everybody wants to be one, but Grand Valley provided me on-the-job training. It prepared me for everything that came after."

Plucking the small school from football obscurity, Brian Kelly finished his 13 years at the school with an astounding 118-35-2 record, including Division II titles in 2002 and 2003. It was Kelly's attention to detail that allowed him to succeed, despite taking over the program at the young age of 28.

In just his third season, Notre Dame boast a 28-10 record, and are looking to claim their first National Championship since 1988. Bringing a small-school mentality to the big time has worked -- now it's time for Kelly to take another program to a national title, though Monday's game holds a lot more gravitas than those Division II titles with the Lakers.

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